There’s never been another player at Walker High School like junior point Jalen Cook, something that was further evidence by Friday’s Gatorade Player of the Year honor for the state of Louisiana.
Cook, a driving force in Walker’s second consecutive trip to the Class 5A state tournament, is now eligible to win Gatorade’s national player of the year award which will be announced later this month.
Gatorade selects a player from each state and Washington D.C. for its national honor.
“He’s earned everything he’s gotten,” Walker coach Anthony Schiro said. “This award’s not just about basketball. He’s a great guy all around and this award encompasses more than on the court.”
Cook gives Walker High a sweep of the award in the state with senior Tiara Young recently receiving the same honor for the girls. He becomes the second player from Livingston Parish to win the award and first since 2005 when former Denham Springs standout Tasmin Mitchell received the honor.
“It’s just a blessing,” Cook said. “I thank God, my family and my dad for pushing me a lot for this. It’s a lot of hard work in the gym. I want to thank my coaches and my teammates. They really molded me to get this award. They pushed me at practice. It just means a lot to me and lets me know that all of the hard work is paying off. It’s only the beginning.”
With a team returning from the school’s first Class 5A state championship in that didn’t have the luxury of depth and experience as its predecessor, Cook increased his scoring average 10 points over his sophomore season.
The result was another deep postseason run for the Wildcats who finished a 29-10 campaign and were back in the Class 5A state championship game where they fell to Thibodaux, 70-60.
“You think about how tough the season was and how well we played,” Cook said. “It still kind of hurts. It was a good, hard-fought season. It’s nothing to hang our heads over. We’ve got to get back in the gym and work hard to get there next year.”
Cook scored 1,152 points for the season, averaging 29.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.8 steals. He shot 58 percent from two-point range, 44.8 from 3-point land and 80 percent from the free throw line.
Cook, who scored a career-high 48 points in a December tournament game in an overtime win over Landry-Walker, averaged 28.8 points during the postseason – topped by 37 points in a semifinal win over Bossier – and 29.1 points in District 4-5A play.
“It wasn’t just shooting and scoring,” Schiro said. “That’s just the type of player he is. He knew he needed to step up and be more assertive in every area and became a natural leader for us in a role we needed him to do.”
The Gatorade award is a cumulative honor, also taking into consideration excellence in the classroom as well as high character both on and off the court.
Cook checked those boxes as well.
Schiro said Cook maintains a 3.35 grade point average and serves on the usher board at Greater St. Mark Baptist Church in Walker and is a mentor to kids in the community through a program at the church.
Moreover, Cook has also participated in a team-wide initiative during Christmas and volunteered for the US Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation, Schiro said.
“Within the community he’s a well-known kid,” Schiro said. “I’ve never had a teacher send me anything bad about Jalen giving them trouble. It’s a great honor because they look at more than just his basketball ability.”
Said Cook: School is the most important thing along with being a good person in the community,” Cook said. “This program is building me into being a good man on and off the court. I want to be someone that kids can look up to and just inspire them and help others in need.”
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